Kruger’s Finest: Explore Top Luxury Lodges

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s most iconic safari destinations. Established in 1898, it stands as a remarkable conservation success story, preserving a vast wilderness teeming with the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) and a diverse array of species (both fauna and flora). According to the SANParks website, this 4.9 million-acre reserve is home to 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammal species. In short, the Kruger National Park is a rich and varied safari destination that should not be missed when visiting South Africa.

Lioness and cubs in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

However, many find it confusing when trying to understand the different safari experiences available. Where can you enjoy a public self-drive and catering experience, and where are the exclusive luxury lodges? What do people mean when they refer to the Greater Kruger versus the Kruger National Park? In this blog, we will outline the main differences and highlight the top luxury lodges in both the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger area.

Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

 The Kruger National Park Vs The Greater Kruger 

It’s easy to get confused when people or travel agencies talk about the Kruger National Park versus the Greater Kruger. What’s important to understand is that animals freely move between these two distinct regions due to their unfenced border. However, the accommodation and safari experiences available in each area differ significantly. Let’s break it down.

The Kruger National Park 

At over 2 million hectares, the Kruger National Park is as large as Belgium. It is renowned for its abundant wildlife, including the Big Five, wild dog, cheetah, and various antelopes across diverse ecosystems. This National Park is open to the public and offers a safari experience where you can self-drive on dedicated roads (some tarred, others gravel) and stay in self-catering chalets or campsites. As a result, the high safari season (June to October) the public areas are characterized with vehicle congestion and can become crowded. 

Above Image: self-drive visitors enjoying a lion sighting in the Kruger National Park, South South Africa 

The Kruger National Park, however,  also features a few luxury lodges situated within private concessions, such as andBeyond’s Ngala Private Game Reserve and Singita. These private concessions provide a more exclusive safari experience, with fully inclusive luxury accommodations, private guides and ethical off-roading privileges, all of which is away from the public areas of the park. Therefore, you will have a more exclusive safari experience away from the crowds. 

The Greater Kruger 

The Greater Kruger area to the west consists of private game reserves like the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, Timbavati, Klaserie, Thornybush Nature Reserve and Manyeleti. In these reserves, you can enjoy fully inclusive luxury safari options with private guides, ethical off-roading, and restricted vehicle access at high-profile sightings of the Big Five, cheetah, and wild dog. These reserves offer a more intimate and exclusive wildlife experience compared to the public areas of the Kruger National Park. It’s important to remember, however, that the restriction on movement applies only to us humans; wild animals can freely migrate across the Kruger, as the two regions share an unfenced border.

The Best Luxury Lodges in the Kruger National Park 

1) andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge 

Ngala Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nestled in the northern part of the 36,000-acre Ngala Private Game Reserve, a haven for the Big Five and the first private reserve to be incorporated into Kruger National Park, lies Ngala Safari Lodge. 

This much-loved safari haven is our go-to retreat for multi-generational and group travel, offering a wonderful array of adventures for both the young and the young at heart. The lodge boasts a great selection of accommodation options, which range from luxurious cottages to three family cottages and a family suite. Each option has been beautifully furnished with a combination of contemporary and classic features, making this lodge truly timeless in its offering. Read More…

Best For: couples and families 

Why do we love it: 

  • It’s private 36,000 acre concession within the Kruger 
  • Home to naturally occurring white lions 
  • Dedicated WILDchild program for children 

Ngala Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa

2) andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp

Ngala Tented Camp is positioned perfectly in the middle of the wildlife rich Ngala Private Game Reserve, putting you in a fantastic position to explore this 36,000 acre private wilderness of the Kruger National Park.



Overlooking the sandy riverbed of the Timbavati River, this sophisticated camp is perfectly positioned in tranquil bush surrounds. It is here, amidst the mottled shade of a riverine forest that you will find the comforts of nine award-winning suites. Talk about perfect for honeymooners and couples, the private and spacious suites are set on raised platforms and have been cleverly designed to blend into the trees. Read More…

Best For: couples and honeymooners 

Why do we love it: 

  • It’s currently undergoing a large – scale refurbishment (or rebuild) – reopening in October 2024.
  • Home to naturally occurring white lions 
  • Unique Treehouse sleepout experience for the romantics 

aerial view of the Ngala Treehouse during sunset

3) Singita Lebombo 

Hidden away within one of the world’s most famous safari havens, the Kruger National Park, is one our must-see retreats; Singita Lebombo. Perched above the pristine N’wanetsi River, this award-winning lodge was inspired by the eagles’ nests that dot the cliff face along the river.

Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

 Lebombo effortlessly blends into its surroundings, and it’s the natural, organic decorative features that make it one of our favorites. Read More…

Best For: couples and honeymooners 

Why do we love it: 

  • The 25 meter lap pool of course! 
  • The first-class wine and dining experience 
  • The spectacular N’wanetsi River views

The Best Luxury Lodges in the Greater Kruger

 1) The Royal Malewane Portfolio 

Situated in the Thornybush Nature Reserve, a wild Big Five haven bordering the Kruger National Park, Royal Malewane’s eclectic, luxurious portfolio of lodges caters to every traveler’s taste.

A lion pride at Royal Malewane, Timbavati, South Africa

This exquisite property features three distinct safari lodges: Malewane, Farmstead, and Waterside, each offering a unique and exceptional experience tailored to your preferences. Ideal for multi-generational or private group safaris, each lodge provides a sole-use option, complete with a private butler, chef, guide, and tracker. Read More… 


Best For: honeymooners, couples, families and private groups  

Why do we love it: 

  • You are spoilt for choice with these incredible lodges 
  • The first-class guide and tracking teams 
  • Exceptional service, dining and wine experience

Image Below: Christina Messham enjoying a white rhino sighting during her stay at Royal  Malewane Lodge. 

2) Thornybush Game Lodge 

One of our top picks for a South African safari, Thornybush is a must-experience when game viewing in the Greater Kruger National Park.

We fell in love with the lodge’s classic safari charm. The suites have been decorated in calming earthy tones and luxurious furnishings. Enjoy spacious ensuite bathrooms, which feature a double basin, and an oh-so roomy bath that overlooks the surrounding wilderness – we highly recommend making use of the outdoor shower. Read more… 


Best For: couples, families and private groups  

Why do we love it: 

  • The classic and fresh safari decor (sole-use option available)
  • The riverbed views from the main area and luxurious suites
  • The spa is quite stunning – a must during your stay

3) Thornybush Saseka Tented Camp 

Thornybush has truly excelled in creating Saseka Tented Camp, where nostalgic South African safari style meets contemporary 21st-century design.

Each tented suite offers a relaxing retreat in calming shades of sage, gray, apple, and dusty pink. Guests can enjoy an outdoor shower, a private plunge pool, and a spacious game-viewing deck overlooking the riverbed, providing the perfect blend of luxury and nature. Read more… 


Best For: honeymooners and couples

Why do we love it: 

  • Spacious luxury suites with private plunge pools 
  • Dedicated safari walking guide for all guests 
  • Their private deck dinners are exquisite! 

Simbavati River Lodge 

We absolutely love the tranquil setting of Simbavati River Lodge, nestled along the banks of the Nhlaralumi River in the renowned Timbavati Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park.

Simbavati River Lodge, Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa.

This exquisite safari retreat caters to every traveler, offering a serene escape into nature. One of its main attractions is its proximity to a popular waterhole, frequently visited by herds of elephants and other plains game, making wildlife sightings an everyday delight. Read More… 

Simbavati River Lodge, Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa.

Best For: couples and families 

Why do we love it: 

  • The active waterhole right in front of the lodge 
  • Romantic tented or chalet accommodation 
  • The dedicated children’s center – perfect for families 

When is it the Best time to Visit the Kruger

The Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger are both incredible year-round Big Five safari destinations. We always hesitate to say when is the best time, as this statement is truly our honest opinion. However, let us give you a rough guide to what you can potentially expect during your stay through-out the year.

Best time to Visit - Kruger National Park

What you can expect from your Safari Experience.

The Kruger National Park is seasonal with different safari experiences and potential expectations available during parts of the year. Below is a basic breakdown: 

January to March 

Summer in the Lowveld brings occasional afternoon thunderstorms and full waterholes, making predator sightings a little more challenging with the thicker vegetation but offering expansive reserve exploration and vibrant landscapes for stunning photography. Bird enthusiasts will enjoy migratory species like the Woodland Kingfisher and Wahlberg’s Eagle that are visiting the Kruger. Bring your pair of Swarovski binoculars for enhanced game viewing. 

April to May 

As the weather shifts, you get the best of both worlds: lush landscapes teeming with life and drying waterholes that attract concentrated wildlife, enhancing sightings and interactions. Cooler temperatures also make game drives more comfortable and enjoyable.

Charleston male lions walking past. Taken at Kirkman's Camp, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa.

June to September 

For many, this is regarded as the prime safari season. The dried-out bush and thinner vegetation make spotting animals easier, with dramatic scenes at water sources where wildlife congregates. It’s a prime time to witness lion-buffalo encounters and enjoy walking safaris, as improved visibility enhances the overall experience. But the days are shorter, giving you less time between the game drives. 

October to November

Known as the Emerald Season, early rains rejuvenate the land, leading to lush landscapes and the birth of many young animals like impala lambs and warthogs. Predators, especially leopards, exploit these opportunities, making it a thrilling time for wildlife viewing.


By December, summer brings hot, humid weather, with game drives timed for comfortable mornings and afternoons. Longer days allow more time to enjoy lodge amenities and experiences like spa treatments, pool relaxation, or community visits. Due to it being the rainy season, a minimum three-day lodge stay is recommended to fully experience the wilderness. We must be honest here too, rates are more favorable with many “Long-Stay” offers. Something worth thinking about, especially for families or groups.  

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime?

Thinking of planning a African safari, we’re here to help! Our team of travel designers will create an itinerary just for you to create memories to last a lifetime and conquer your bucket list. Get in touch with us today to start planning your adventure in Africa.

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